Find and book unique accommodations on Airbnb
Guests agree: these stays are highly rated for location, cleanliness, and more.
Straddling the Kentucky-Tennessee state line, Dale Hollow Lake is as picturesque as they come, its steep bluffs and limestone outcroppings circling thick green forests, fingers stretching into secret coves. And with 620 miles of shoreline and 48 square miles of water surface, it’s a true boater’s paradise. The lake’s many marinas offer equipment to rent, including double-decker boats and non-motorized vehicles such as kayaks and paddleboards. If you’re more of a floater, Dale Hollow Lake was created when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dammed the Obey River, and the river is very popular with those seeking all-day floats. There are put-in spots all along this section of waterway.
While Dale Hollow Lake is best known for its championship smallmouth bass fishing — it holds the record for the world’s largest smallmouth — it’s also home to crappie, bream, muskie, walleye, trout, catfish, and other species of bass.
If you’re looking for things to do on land, the trails crisscrossing the lake’s perimeter are prime ground for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. You can also explore life in the towns surrounding the lake. The area is anchored by Celina, Tennessee — a small community with a large Amish influence and antique shopping galore — to the west and Byrdstown, home to the 55-acre historic Cordell Hull Birthplace and Museum park, to the east.
The closest airport to Dale Hollow Lake is Nashville International Airport (BNA), which is about two hours southwest and has nonstop service to cities across the United States and a few international hubs. Knoxville’s McGhee Tyson Airport (TYS) is smaller and about 2.5 hours southeast of Dale Hollow Lake, but also offers nonstop daily service to a handful of domestic cities. You’ll need a rental car to get to and around the lake once you arrive. If you’re an experienced boater arriving without your own ride, you also might want to consider renting a boat for ease in exploring the lake.
If you want to beat the crowds, go to Dale Hollow Lake in the spring months when it’s just starting to warm up; Tennessee and Kentucky springs can start as early as March or as late as mid-April, and while the water may be chilly, you can expect the wildflowers and other blooms to show off. Summer between Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends is the busiest time on Dale Hollow Lake, with out-of-state visitors and Tennessee and Kentucky residents flocking here to cool off in the intense Southern humidity. While some facilities and attractions may be open only in the summer months, fall is also a time to consider visiting Dale Hollow Lake as the leaves begin to turn shades of gold and the crowds head home for the season.
Spanning 3,400 acres, Dale Hollow Lake State Park is a popular spot for active pursuits such as mountain biking, but it’s also well known for more low-key solitary activities such as birding. In the wintertime, the park is home to the state’s second-largest population of nesting bald eagles after Reelfoot Lake; it also houses plenty of waterfowl and other migrating bird species within its lush forests.
Go underground and see the cavernous landscape upon which Tennessee and Kentucky are built via an adventurous wander through Cindy Cave. The cave is open each summer from Memorial Day through Labor Day by guided tour only. Note that touring this primitive space requires comfort with moving, bending, and crawling through small spaces. You may be joined in your journey by cave-dwelling crickets, salamanders, and bats.
A 12-foot-tall rock on a sandstone ledge once served as the boundary between two Native American nations. Today, it’s a family-friendly state park in Tennessee with an artificial lake and plenty of hiking trails.